(Photo Caption: A visual representation of the enzyme “Nmnat1,” which has been proven to protect brain cells. [Photo courtesy of bioquicknews.com])
Under the supervision of research associate Philip Verghese, researchers inflicted human-like brain injuries on two groups of mice. The injuries were similar to those that cause cerebral palsy in children. The first group of rodents was “normal,” and the second had been genetically modified to produce more Nmnat1.
What the researchers found could have major significance for people. The researchers discovered that mice designed to produce more Nmnat1 showed fewer signs of brain damage. In other words, Nmnat1 seemed to completely stop brain cells from dying – a process that could prevent CP from developing in humans.
“We think, at this point, that the enzyme blocks the early disturbances that can lead to cell death,” said Verghese. “If we could find a way to increase the level in a clinical setting, it could be pretty promising.”
Verghese acknowledged that his research is still in the early stages, and that more time is needed to figure out how humans could produce more Nmnat1.
Still, the developments are definitely exciting – especially for future parents, hoping for the peace of mind of delivering a healthy baby. Verghese says his research might also be able to help Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients.
“It’s a very interesting observation at this point,” he said. “We’d definitely like to move forward and understand more about developing potential drugs.
Tags: Washington University, Washington University cerebral palsy
Abstract of Philip Verghese’s Experiment Nov. 4, 2011 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America